With each lengthening day, the season of renewal returns to our lives.
The downspout drip-drip-drips as the sun begins to warm the roof.
A trio of robins bounces along the tiny patch of grass revealed by melting snow.
The neighbors chatter on the sidewalk as they emerge to walk their dogs.
The sweet and gentle aroma of spring again wafts through the air. And with it comes another sweet sign of the season: maple syrup.
Sugaring season is upon us – and with it comes a bounty of delicious treats and experiences associated with all things maple. From tapping the trees to pancake feasts, here’s your round of up the best ways to enjoy this special time of year.
The Season and Region
Vermont tops the list of maple syrup producers in the United States, producing more than one million gallons each year! New York, Maine and Wisconsin also produce ample amounts per season.
Sugar Maples grow in the Northeast, and require a delicate balance of freezing and thawing to produce sap – which ultimately gets boiled down into syrup. Milder days and cool nights create movement of the sap within the tree. The starch stored in the roots moves upwards during the day, and then flows out of the tap, and into collection buckets. Modern methods include an intricate assembly of tubes connecting hundreds of trees to a large collection tank.
The sap is then boiled down – traditionally by open wood fire but more commonly in large cookers – into syrup. It takes about 50 gallons of sap to produce one gallon of syrup, depending on the sap’s sugar content.
Maple Weekend Tours
A great opportunity to get out and enjoy all things maple is the Maple Weekend Tours offered throughout the month of March. Vermont, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Ohio and Massachusetts all celebrate Maple Weekend. Sugarhouses across the state are open for tours and tastings, offering a behind-the-scenes look at the process, from tap to table. Print out a route map and spend the day on a scenic drive as you taste your way through the tour!
Nothing goes better with real maple syrup than pancakes. In March and April, special seasonal restaurants and events open their doors for annual breakfast feasts.
A special option is Cartwright’s Maple Tree Inn, in Angelica, NY. Maple fans come from miles around to experience this family run seasonal pancake destination. The isolated location, in the Southern Tier region of New York, truly makes this a bit of a pancake pilgrimage. Maple fans come from miles around to experience this family run seasonal restaurant. The pancakes are served up all-you-can-eat style, the décor is a throwback to the 1940s, and the experience is simple and down-home. Once you’ve filled up on pancakes, keep the theme going by sampling an array of maple-themed desserts: coconut maple crunch pie, maple cinnamon pumpkin pie, and their latest creation, the chocolate maple walnut pie. Cartwright’s is only open annually from February to April.
In Wisconsin, head to Racine for the Sugarin’ Off Pancake Breakfast at the River Bend Nature Center. After breakfast, grab your hiking boots for a walk through the sugar bush. You’ll learn how the center taps 70 trees, and boils down the sap in old-fashioned wood burning evaporators. Breakfasts are held every Sunday in March.
The town of Burton, Ohio is the self-proclaimed “Pancake Town USA.” The town boasts a half-dozen all-you-can-eat pancake breakfasts throughout the month of March, along with sugaring tours, a craft festival, and the Burton Log Cabin – a working sugarhouse located right on the town square!
Historic Maple Tours
A visit to The Landing-Minnesota River Heritage Park in Shakopee – just outside of Minneapolis – will immerse you in history and maple. The 88-acre living history museum, depicts life in the Lower Minnesota River Valley from the 1840s to the 1890s, and hosts a historic maple touring day on March 21. You can ride a horse-drawn trolley, meet maple syrup makers from the past, and learn how early pioneers used the maple trees for food, shelter and commerce.
In Western New York State, head to the Genesee Country Village & Museum in Mumford, NY for a pancake breakfast and a peek into life in the 19th century. At the museum’s nature center, hike through the maple history trail, try your hand at historic maple sugaring tools, and experience traditional sap boiling methods. In the historic village, you’ll meet with 19th century costumed interpreters and artisans, and even taste maple inspired foods from the era.
Enjoy at Home
The best part about the maple weekends might just be all of the maple syrup you can bring home! From savory dishes to dessert, maple is delicious!